Video footage has been released of a deeply disturbing incident in which a father and his son illegally shot and killed a hibernating black bear and her cubs, and bragged about getting away with their crime. In the footage, the cubs can be heard shrieking in terror.
Earlier this year, Andrew Renner of Wasilla, Alaska, was sentenced to three months in jail and barred from hunting for a decade, after pleading guilty to poaching charges. His son, Owen Renner, 18, received a 30-day suspended sentence and was required to perform community service.
This week, activists released video footage that unbeknown to the two men filmed them in their deed. The cameras had been installed as part of a study by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the US Forest Service.
Instead, the camera captured the two men killing the bear and her cubs and later covering up their actions.
“The video starts out with the father-son duo on skis spotting a mother bear hibernating in a tree hollow on Esther Island, in Prince William Sound,” the Humane Society of the United States wrote in a blog accompanying the video.
“It’s apparent from the audio that the bear is aware of the impending danger and makes sounds that indicate her fear. The two pull out their guns and fire several shots into the hollow, killing the bear even as the shrieks of her baby cubs fill the air.”
It also captured the men returning to the site several days later to hide evidence, stuffing the bear cubs’ bodies into a bag, disposing of a tracking collar placed on the mother bear, and retrieving spent bullet casings.
It also showed the younger man – who poses for a photograph with the animal’s carcass – bragging: “They’ll never be able to link us to this. You and me do what the f*** we want. We go places – kill s***.”
The nonprofit group said although legal in some areas of Alaska, the killing of cubs, or a mother bear with her cubs, is illegal in the part of the state where the Renners carried out their crime.
It said the footage was an insight into what could happen if new rules that would allow “cruel methods” of hunting black bears and other animals goes into effect.
“The rule seeks to roll back existing protections that prohibit hunting on these lands using cruel methods, like taking black bears, including cubs and sows with cubs, with artificial light at den sites, shooting brown bears over bait, taking wolves and coyotes (including pups) during the denning season, shooting swimming caribou, shooting caribou from motorboats under power, shooting black bears over bait, and using dogs to hunt black bears,” it said.
When the two men were sentenced earlier this year, assistant attorney general Aaron Peterson, told the court it was the most egregious bear cub poaching case his office has ever seen. He said: ”What we saw is that there were two bear cubs that were completely defenceless and were shot at point-blank range.”